Witnessing a historic vote

Several Trustees attorneys went to Washington D.C., last week to assist clients during a historic U.S. House vote to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Here, one of them tells her story. (Sign the petition now to stay informed and learn how to protect the Arctic.)

Change is coming

A northern shrike nest in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Brook Brisson.

By Brook Brisson, senior staff attorney

One of the benefits of working at Trustees for Alaska is that my work often takes me out of my office, sometimes even to the incredible places that we work to protect. Soon after I started as an attorney at Trustees, I was fortunate to be invited on a trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We spent 4 nights in the foothills of the Brooks Range, hiking and exploring the hills and braids of the Kongakut River. Surrounded by a landscape whose scale cannot be captured, the image that I return to often is that of a northern shrike nest, the speckled eggs nestled gently on a bed of ptarmigan feathers.

Last week, my work to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge took me to Washington, D.C. I was there to support our clients in their efforts to pass the first stand-alone protection bill for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. H.R. 1146, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, is a very simple bill, only a few short lines. But its impact is immense. It would repeal the provision of the 2017 Tax Act that opened the Coastal Plain to oil and gas leasing and development. It would restore protections to this iconic and sacred area. 

U.S. House leaders join the Gwich'in delegation at press conference before the historic House vote to protect the Arctic Refuge.
U.S. House and Gwich’in leaders gather at a press conference before the historic vote.

We scurried around offices and the Capitol, supporting our client’s work by drafting documents, analyzing amendments, and attending last-minute meetings. Supporting the needs of the Gwich’in delegation that came to witness history was incredibly meaningful personally and professionally. And sitting in the galley watching the bill be debated, amendments offered, and the votes take place was a much needed reminder that change is possible.

The vote succeeded, passing 225-195! 

Right now, we in Alaska are facing many threats to the people, places, and things that are deeply important to us. Our public lands are deeply important to me. Every day I work to hold the line, knowing that the currents will shift and change will come, that we’ll move toward a future where our iconic landscapes are provided the protection and reverence they deserve. I choose to see the vote and passage of the bill as an indication that that change is coming. And I’m more resolved than ever to work with our clients to get there.